Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
He was part of India's Under-19 World Cup squad in 2002. He has spent more than a decade on the first-class circuit. He has been part of a victorious IPL campaign. Still, when Siddharth Trivedi ran in to bowl in a Saurashtra Cricket Association's inter-district tournament last week, he felt as if he was on his first-class debut.
It was perfectly understandable. Trivedi was playing his first competitive game after serving a one-year suspension for failing to report an approach by a bookie during the IPL corruption scandal in 2013.
"I was feeling exactly the same when I made my first-class debut," Trivedi tells ESPNcricinfo, speaking from Rajkot, where he is playing for Saurashtra in a pre-season warm-up tournament that also features Baroda and his former team Gujarat. "The same nervousness, the same pangs in the stomach. But once I bowled the first couple of balls, I realized that I had finally discovered what I had been missing the most over the last year."
Trivedi's played his comeback game on October 9, for Rajkot City against Bhavnagar Rural in the SCA Tajawala Trophy inter-district tournament. It was his first competitive match since Rajasthan Royals' Qualifier against Mumbai Indians during the 2013 IPL season. Neither the fact that he was bowling in front of the Lord's-like media centre at the SCA stadium in Khandheri nor the fact that he was up against a mediocre side mattered to him. What mattered was that he was out on the park.
"Obviously it was difficult," Trivedi says. "I was rusty since I hadn't bowled in a competitive match for over a year. No doubt I was under pressure. But once I took the field, I really enjoyed the match. It was something that I had waited for over a year, so once I bowled a couple of deliveries, I decided to just express myself without thinking about my performance. Then I realized that I was so excited to give my best for a team on cricket field rather than worrying about my performance."
Soon after the IPL qualifier, reports surfaced that Trivedi had had a few meetings with suspected bookies along with Ajit Chandila, the Royals offspinner who had been arrested along with teammates Ankeet Chavan and S Sreesanth. Trivedi then co-operated with the Delhi police. The BCCI found him guilty of not reporting an approach and suspended him for a year.
Trivedi is reluctant to talk about the controversy, and says he wants to put it behind him. But he opens up about his life away from cricket, and says he found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that he could not bowl at all. He had confined himself to his home in Ahmedabad, but realised that wouldn't help him recover from the blow.
"The more I stayed at home the more I used to get frustrated. So I realized I had to keep myself busy to remain positive," Trivedi says. "For almost 20 years now, I have been constantly playing cricket matches, whether league matches or first-class cricket or company matches or [in the minor county leagues] in England. Hardly have I stayed home for a month in succession throughout all these years. So it was difficult to come to terms with it. Then I tried to keep my routine going. I didn't have access to all the facilities in terms of cricket but I ensured that I made use of whatever I had and remained fit."
Trivedi found solace in the gym, and gradually increased the time he spent there, contending that he had a better chance of coming back strongly if he was fit. He also began studying video footage of his bowling performances and analysed how he could improve as a bowler.
Asked if he ever thought about giving up the game after his name popped up in the IPL corruption scandal, Trivedi says the thought never entered his mind. He says his recovery was possible only because of the support he received from his friends, family and well-wishers.
"They always backed the fact that I was unfortunately involved in it without ever knowing anything about those people," he says. "That confidence that they have shown me has made me even more determined to go out onto the field yet again and perform even better to justify the faith they have shown in me."
Once his suspension ended and the BCCI working committee allowed him to return to mainstream cricket, Trivedi approached the SCA chief Niranjan Shah, who had signed him as a professional in 2011-12. Shah welcomed him "with open arms", raising Trivedi's hopes of returning to first-class cricket.
Trivedi says his task is a lot tougher this year, with Saurashtra having roped in Uttar Pradesh seamer Sudeep Tyagi, but he is undeterred. He knows he has a long way to go if he has to play the big domestic tournaments again.
"It's just like starting from scratch," he says. "I have played three games so far and have spent more than a week training in Rajkot. Saurashtra captain Jaydev Shah and coach Shitanshu Kotak, with whom I have played a lot, have been really supportive. I just hope I can continue putting in my best and justify the faith of my well-wishers by returning to top-flight cricket soon."